By Chelsea Fung
In the future there is a fierce, female force to be reckoned with; who fights to protect the young and innocent, while defying the weighty dictatorial society swathing around her. Luckily today such a strong female character isn’t too much of a foreign and futuristic idea, especially with badass heroines being brought to the screen like Eve in Bonnie Bower and John Wynn’s Escape. In this week’s Filmmaker Spotlight we got to know the heroine herself, Bonnie Bower, and Writer/Director of Escape, John Wynn.
Where did you two get your start in the industry?
Bonnie: My background is in Theatre. From a very young age, I was performing ‘40s era show tunes in talent shows. My dad was very much the inspiration there. I went on to get my B.F.A. in Music Theatre. I knew about halfway through college that I wanted to focus on acting and transition to film and television. A month after graduation, I flew to La La land with two suitcases and $250…the classic bumpkin going to Hollywood story.
John: I started out as an actor, doing guest stars on TV and a lot of commercials. A few years ago, I produced a film I was starring in and one thing led to another and I soon realized my calling was as a director. I loved my time as an actor. It was creatively and financially rewarding, but for me it came down to what excited me when I woke up in the morning. I just love with all my heart, directing and producing. I’m obsessed with it. The biggest challenge in making the switch was the time commitment. As an actor, you become the role and you give it everything you have, but once you wrap, you’re done. At least until you have to do press. You don’t have to worry about distribution and color timing and DCP’s and sound mix. You get to refresh and charge back up and tackle a new role. Behind the camera, when you finish principal photography that’s just the start of a very long road to release the film. But that’s also the most rewarding part of being behind the camera: you’re actively involved in what happens in the film, or at the least, you have some idea of what’s happening. For me, the switch has been the best decision I could have made.
Tell me about your short 'Escape’ that brought you to HollyShorts
John: Escape is a wonderful showcase for both Bonnie and me. For her, she did a fantastic job co-producing it and her performance in it is stellar. Everyone is just star struck by her presence on-screen. I’ve had a wonderful history with the HollyShorts Film Festival, having won honorable mention back in 2011 with my first short Pillow Talk. I wanted the next film that I screened at HollyShorts to be even more of an eye opener. Escape was something I felt could be that. The world in Pillow Talk was small and intimate. Escape is immense and wide in scope with almost every frame of the film augmented by VFX. It was a huge undertaking to make it all appear seamless and organic, but I think we pulled it off. Again, none of that matters, though if the story isn’t engaging and the characters endearing, so it was very validating to have the audience at HollyShorts love the film.
Where did the idea come from to tell the story of such a badass heroine?
John: The idea was born out of a talk Bonnie and I had about an action sequence I wanted to shoot. I don’t want to give away all the details because I still want to make it, but basically, I asked her opinion about this scene where a woman has to protect a child during a very violent confrontation. I’ve always been drawn to strong, complex female leads and really wanted to explore the maternal instinct to protect one’s young. From there, our talk evolved into a better idea of what the character of Eve might be. Bonnie had some really great suggestions that I was able to incorporate and once I figured out the rest of the story we were good to go.
Bonnie, as a female lead how did it feel being such a kick ass heroine? Did you have any specific heroines that you were channelling in your role as Eve?
Bonnie: Um, it was awesome! I have played roles with a similar emotional range to Eve, but I have never played a role with this type of physical action. I grew up dancing and with sisters, so needless to say I was not a scrappy kid by any means. Getting in touch with that part of myself was an exhilarating and freeing experience. There were so many film heroines performances that inspired me to get into the right physical and mental place. Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Angelina Jolie in everything, Kate Beckinsale, to name a few.
What are some words of wisdom that you have for actresses/women in the industry?
Bonnie: Be true to who you are. Listen to yourself. The self you were when you moved to Los Angeles or New York or Toronto or London. I have grown in amazing ways, but I know this is just the beginning for me and I have to remember that Bonnie that moved to Los Angeles right from college with a little extra cheek chub and 250 bucks. Perspective.
Bonnie, you did some crowdfunding for Escape, tell me about the process of your experience with crowdfunding.
Bonnie: John and I had talked about doing the project and he wrote it literally in an afternoon. John Wynn is a busy man so I had to coerce him a bit to do another short film. I thought, what the heck, I’ll just go ahead and raise the money and then he will have to do it. I asked him how much he thought he needed and he threw out $5,000. I made a super fun campaign video, with the help of our amazing friends Nathan Moore and Lana Moore, who have a huge presence on YouTube. I used the crowdfunding site Indiegogo and that video to spread the word. Well, I’ll be damned, I was determined and it payed off. We surpassed the goal I set. I was completely overwhelmed by the support from friends and family everywhere. The key to crowdfunding, in my experience, is learning how to phrase “Give me your money” in a way that doesn’t make everyone ignore every single post you make to social media. It’s also an art in knowing how often to make those posts.
What tips do you have for indie filmmakers and their crowd funding campaign?
Bonnie: Make a short, fun campaign video in the beginning and make sure to have little updates and videos all through the process. It’s important once you raise the money to keep everyone who contributed in the loop too! They are all investing in you, so as the filmmaker you should give back by sharing your process and making your campaign in your individual voice.
Do you have plans to make this short into a web series or perhaps a feature?
John: Escape is being set up as a feature. We cracked the logic for the extended story and are very excited at what the full length version of it is going to look like. Stay tuned. We should have details soon!